OHSU Ethicist Invited to Address Hollywood Professionals About Portraying End-of-Life Issues

11/12/02    Portland, Ore.

Event to take place at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) ethicist and internal medicine physician Susan Tolle, M.D., has been invited to address entertainment professionals in Hollywood, Calif. this week. Tolle, who serves as director of the Center for Ethics in Health Care at OHSU, will speak on a panel of experts about issues surrounding the end of a patient's life. The audience is expected to include writers, producers and other entertainment professionals. The purpose of the event is to promote a more accurate and sensitive portrayal of end-of-life issues in entertainment programming. It's sponsored by Last Acts, a coalition of more than 900 organizations dedicated to improving care at the end of life. The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 13 at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in North Hollywood.

Tolle's portion of the presentation will address terminal illness, advance directives, hospice care, death in a hospital setting and communication, and the process of decision making within the family. She'll discuss these issues through a series of fictional scenarios based on real-life case histories. Other professionals with expertise in end-of-life issues will address hospice care, the legal issues surrounding advance directives and living wills, geriatric caregiving, and the psychological impacts of death on patients and their families.

"While in many cases Hollywood does a very good job in portraying end-of-life issues on the big and small screen, we hope to help producers, writers and directors as they continue to strive for realism," said Tolle, a professor of medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine. "In fact, we're pleased that the entertainment industry is so interested in these issues. These story lines may cause families to begin discussions about treatment wishes at the end of life and may result in advanced planning, which lifts burden from families when a patient is unable to communicate their own end-of-life care wishes."

In addition to her appearance at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Tolle has been invited to visit Universal Studios and meet with a writer from the hit NBC show "Law and Order." Tolle and the writer will discuss her experiences with end-of-life issues for possible inclusion in future scripts for the show.